U.S. ethanol exports totaled 127.9 million gallons (mg) in January, according to government data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). This reflects an 8.5% decline from December and the lowest monthly volume in four months, but it represented an increase from the 88.3 mg shipped in January 2018. Finalizing the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) will go a long way toward normalizing trade in all goods, including ethanol and DDGS, and experts say that it will be difficult to move on any other trade deals until the U.S. demonstrates its commitments to Mexico and Canada. USMCA, once ratified by all three nations, will allow N. America to present a united from on many trade issues.
Brazil remained the top U.S. customer for the second straight month. Canada sharply reduced its U.S. imports at 19.97 mg (-29%), its smallest purchase in a year. Exports to South Korea ticked up to 13.5 mg, while Colombia expanded to a record 9.5 mg. These five countries accounted for roughly 80% of January exports of U.S. ethanol.
January was absent of any fuel ethanol imports for the first time in six months. Imports have averaged less than 6 mg per month over the past four years.
January exports of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product generated by dry mill ethanol plants—slid 9.4%. Sales of 806,615 metric tons (mt) of DDGS were the smallest monthly volume to ship since Aug. 2017. Notably, Thailand cut its purchases significantly in January to just 34,969 mt (down 64%) for the lowest U.S. DDGS imports since Sept. 2015. However, exports to Mexico recovered from a December slump as 50% more animal feed crossed the border; a record 199,312 mt of DDGS purchased by our top customer was equivalent to a quarter of global sales in January. The UK & Ireland (101,370 mt, up 13%), Indonesia (90,291 mt, down 12%), South Korea (89,364 mt, up 13%), and Vietnam (89,356 mt, down 21%) were key markets with the remaining 30% of exports dispersed among 30 additional countries.